Nonprofit employees have the great fortune of working in a relatively selfless industry. Our mission, usually both personal and organizational, is to help people. Our perspective is that all individuals out there share this mindset. The problem comes when nonprofit professionals encounter businesses who do not share these motives and whose mission is to profit.
How do you figure out which services and organizations are trying to empower your nonprofit and which see you primarily as dollar signs?
Ask hard questions
Vendors who come to you and pitch new ways to fundraise for “only $x per month!” may not have your best interests at heart. Be objective in determining how they found you and whether their services are mutually beneficial. Ask what you can expect as return on investment, ask what size organization they’ve seen use their services most successfully. Sometimes success in fundraising attracts parasites who are trying to take advantage of an increased budget. Fundraising web pages that take additional percentage beyond credit card fees, people offering unachievable returns on investment, mail houses that are not up on latest nonprofit trends all should be weeded out.
Don’t sign long-term contracts unless you know details
Don’t commit to anything long term unless you feel confident that you will not want to get out of the contract. We have plenty of experience with clients who make a split-second decision to sign a two year contract with a vendor before realizing two months in that they are stuck.
Know how to identify scams
There are many for-profit organizations that pop up to pitch specific services. This was a big problem with office supply scams in the early 2000s and it continues today. We’ve seen this with third party vendors who send a frantic statement about your GoDaddy subscriptions expiring and request money to make sure your domain is secure for another year (they make a huge premium on this). Other companies do this with Google Adwords accounts. Even if the business is legitimate, they may still be trying to take advantage of you.
The key here is to replace panic with research. If you have reservations about a vendor you might be working with, use the web. Search people, companies and reviews or use the Better Business Bureau and similar websites to vet organizations.
Find experts you can trust
Talk to people- experts in the field, individuals with shared experiences at other organizations- who have done all of this before and can help you make decisions. They might have some insider knowledge or familiarity with these businesses. This advice is applicable in regards to making purchases as well. the Federal Trade Commission advises, “Buy from people you know and trust. Authorized employees should be skeptical of “cold” or unsolicited calls and feel comfortable saying “no” to high-pressured sales tactics.”
Awareness is the key to avoiding scams and bad ROIs. Hopefully these magical tips help make parasitic companies disappear faster than you can say evanesco.